In the event that the parties do not reach an agreement, one of the parties may decide to file a lawsuit to resolve the dispute. Most, if not all, parties to a lawsuit hire attorneys to represent them in the suit.
An attorney must conduct a pre-suit investigation before filing a lawsuit on behalf of a party to make sure that the claims have merit.
After the pre-suit investigation is completed, a potential plaintiff will consult with his or her attorney to consider the available remedies before filing a lawsuit. If the potential plaintiff determines that he or she should file a lawsuit, the potential plaintiff will have the attorney prepare a complaint, file the complaint, and serve it on the defendant.
A defendant will usually answer the complaint and may assert counterclaims. The defendant may also attempt to get the lawsuit dismissed at an early stage.
Once the pleadings close, the parties will begin conducting discovery. The parties will exchange documents and other information. The parties will usually take depositions, as well.
In patent cases, courts will usually take the extra step of construing the claims in the patent during the discovery period or shortly thereafter.
Once the discovery period closes, the parties will begin their pre-trial preparation. This usually includes filing one or more motions for summary judgment, which can result in a premature end to the litigation.
If the parties do not file motions for summary judgment or the Court does not award summary judgment to one of the parties, the Court will hold a trial.
A federal district court judge will preside over patent cases. The judge can act as a fact-finder, but the parties usually opt to a jury trial.
At the conclusion of the trial, the judge or the jury will render a verdict indicating the winner of the trial. If either party is not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, the dissatisfied party may decide to appeal the case.
Patent appeals are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which usually sits in Washington, D.C. and has jurisdiction over almost all patent cases that are filed in the United States.
Appellate cases do not involve any live testimony. The parties file one or two briefs and conduct an oral argument in front of three appellate judges.
The parties will usually enter into settlement negotiations before filing motions for summary judgment. These negotiations may or may not be facilitated by a mediator.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. Other forms of alternative dispute resolution include arbitration, early neutral evaluation, and collaborative law. Litigants can use the various forms of alternative dispute resolution in an attempt to resolve patent claims, either before or after a lawsuit is filed.